Skip to main content

Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

See other formats


earlier of the two works.   The letter is dated from Utopia as a
reminder that it deals with life under ideal conditions, but there
is a striking absence of the extravagances which generally conceal
Rabelais' meaning.   In it Gargantua no longer appears as a foolish
giant, but as an enlightened monarch.   After a comparison between
the state of learning in his own youth and at the time of writing—
evidently referring to contemporary France—Gargantua goes on:*
" It is my intention and desire that you should learn the languages
perfectly : first Greek, as Quintilian will have it, thereafter Latin,
and then Hebrew for the sake of the Holy Scriptures, as well as
Chaldaic and Arabic;   and that you should form your style in
Greek in imitation of Plato, and your style in Latin in imitation of
Cicero.   Let there be no history which you have not ready in your
memory ;  and as an aid to this the books of the writers on cos-
mography are very useful.   I gave you some taste of the liberal
arts of geometry, arithmetic and music when you were a child of
five or six.   Go on with your learning of them and master the
rest.   Study all the rules of astronomy, but omit, I beseech you,
divining astrology.   I should like you to know the texts in civil
law by heart and to compare them with philosophy."   So far
Rabelais writes as any enthusiastic man of letters might have done.
The knowledge he commends is simply the knowledge with which
all the scholars of the time, himself included, were equipped.   But
he was a scientist as well as a humanist, and he proceeds to suggest
an unusual addition to the ideal course of study.  " As to the know-
ledge of the works of nature, I would have you devote yourself
to the study of it.   Let there be no sea, river or pool of which you
do not know the fishes.   Learn about all the fowls of the air, all
the shrubs and trees in forest and orchard, all the herbs and
flowers of the ground, all the metals hid in the bowels of the earth,
all the precious stones that are to be seen in the East and the South.
Then go carefully over the books of the Greek, Arabian, and
Latin physicians, and by frequent dissections get a perfect know-
ledge of the other world, the microcosm, which is man.  In a word,
let me see you a very abyss of knowledge."   The letter ends on a
deep religious note, which shows that Rabelais in his esteem of
learning was conscious of its proper place in a complete life.
** Since/' he says, " wisdom does not enter into a mind evilly
disposed, and knowledge without conscience is the ruin of the

*ii, 8,